How the Rich Get Richer

It made me think I maybe don’t belong in a coffee shop where the customers have Prada purses. It made me think I should maybe dump that high-priced decaf espresso and walk right over to my old haunt Dunkin’ Donuts up Main Street a ways.

starbucksI saw a tastefully turned-out woman with a Prada handbag and perfect hair at Starbucks.

I wasn’t trying to ‘see’ her but she was lingering at my elbow as we both stood at the small station all Starbucks storefronts have. This is the place where management provides straws and swizzle sticks, napkins and a modest range of ‘enhancers’, from cinnamon to cocoa powder, as well as the usual range of choices in the general cream and sugar category.

 I felt I was holding her up, the way she lingered idly beside me and so I muttered an apology for not doing a speedier job of dribbling cream into my coffee from the tall cool carafe that stands beside the other tall cool carafes that hold the lowfat milk and the regular milk. I thought probably she needed access to the cream too.

But when I stepped back, my own iced coffee enhanced to my liking, I saw more: She did treat her own coffee with cream, and Splenda, too; but then she reached into the mini-bin that held the sweetener in the familiar pale-yellow packets, closed her fingers around a good dozen of them and slipped them quick into that slim Prada purse.

Maybe Starbucks can handle this kind of ‘shrinkage’ as they call stealing in the retail world, but it still made me shake my head.

It also made me think I maybe don’t belong in a coffee shop where the customers have Prada purses. It made me think I should maybe dump that high-priced decaf espresso and walk right over to my old haunt Dunkin’ Donuts up Main Street a ways.

Sure, they keep the Splenda behind the counter so you have to ask for it a packet at a time, but things just feel more HONEST there. Plus at Dunkin’ you’re far more likely to be greeted with a “Hey, how’s it goin’?”  which I, for one, will take any day over a “What may I serve you?” 

Napolee-o-leon (& Others)

we went to Napoleon’s country house, where we saw with our own eyes how small the guy was: his bed looks like the popsicle stick nest you might build for your pet hamster.

homer in his underpantsIt’s two weeks now since my man and I got back from France, where the number of pictures I took as compared to the amount of food and drink I consumed stands in a ration of 1 to 1000 – and now here I am with little more to remind me of the experience but my new fat tummy. 

Lucky for us , we took this Viking Longboat cruise with two close friends who took tons of pictures. Even better, ‘she’ has written the whole trip up on her travel blog, a site which in my greedy way,  I have boarded as a pirate boards some poor sitting duck of a vessel, and helped myself to the photo booty. ‘He’ was my first friend when I moved at age 9 to our new house and found myself caught up in endless rounds of kickball and the chase-hide-and wallop game we called  “the Commies vs. the Americans. Good times.

We two couples had also gone, via this same Viking cruise company, from Budapest to Nuremberg back in 2014, when the world felt to be in far less trouble than it feels to be today. That was a dream of a trip on which I got to hang out for a while with actual Mozart, or anyway an official Mozart impersonator.  He spoke about the hard life of a professional musician which he actually is. He’s a serious guy.

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This time though it was not Vienna but Paris, a city which appears to do a lot of looking back. We passed the place to which poor Marie Antoinette was brought to meet Madame La Guillotine, she  paraded for mockery’s sake in a crude wooden cart, her hair shorn and her wrists bound behind her back. We saw the monuments Napoleon brought back from Egypt where he went to further foil the British by messing up their trade routes. And, in our fancy tour bus as wide and serene as a clipper ship full-bellied with the breeze, we billowed along down the very route the Allies took after the brutal 100-day Battle of Normandy to at last reach and liberate this famous City of Lights.

On other days we went to Giverny, the estate and gardens established by the Impressionist god Claude Monet who smoked 60 cigarettes a day, slept with his best friend’s wife, and quarrelled sfrequently  with his one surviving son that the son wanted nothing to do with the place after the old man died at 86.

We saw castles and clambered over their ruined stones. We marched up and down streets with ancient stone and timber houses and even a few thatched roofs. And finally we went to Napoleon’s country house, where we saw with our own eyes how small of stature the man  really was. This is his bed, which, in the flesh looks like the the popsicle stick nest you might build for your pet hamster. Poor Josephine lived there as well until he divorced her for failing to give him a son.  

MalmaisonNapBed

We walked in the gardens of this estate, known as Malmaison, but the tour guide apparently ran out of steam because with an hour to go before we could board the bus and go back to our cozy longboat, she told us to enjoy the gardens and disappeared .

It was 55 degrees,  the hospitality center/gift shop was closed and a layer of low grey clouds hovered above us like an omen of old.

Our two pals duly circled the large garden, admiring the roses and chatting up the other members of our expedition.  

The two of us did not. We went and sat on a stone bench – until  another Viking cruiser, from the American  South to judge by her accent, came by, declared us ‘cute’, and snapped this picture.

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Then she made us get up and walk to a spot 100 feet away  where she snapped another.

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The lesson of that moment? Stick around long enough and you too can become a monument. 😛

 

A Rose by Any Other Name?

circus monkeyHere’s a thing you’re not ready for in life: The day when all of a sudden you’ll get a new name.  I think of the way, for decades, my kids called me ‘mom’ and they called their father ‘dad.’ But then we became grandparents and got issued new names, that now feel so permanent they might as well be on our passports.These days he’s “Papa,” a name that for me recalls the swaggering older Hemingway with his white beard and his blather, and I’m “TT,” a circus monkey of a name if ever there was one.

Of course, name changes happen in other ways too and certainly some people bring on the change themselves. The singer songwriter Car Seat Headrest certainly wasn’t given THAT handle at birth. Those in religious life also come to mind in this connection. A girl  could spend years thinking of herself as Eileen Casey, until the day she took the vows and became forever after Sister Sebastian, after the Christian martyr who got himself so thoroughly shot through with arrows that in all the art he looks like a human pincushion.

st. sebastian

Not so long ago, a woman, upon tying the knot, was simply expected to hand in her maiden name like a set of expired license plates. I began teaching school mere weeks after processing down two aisles, one to get my diploma and the other to be wed, and for that whole first school year every time anyone called “Mrs. Marotta!” I’d be looking around wondering what my mother-in-law was doing at my workplace.

But! There can also be an upside to the name-change-upon-marrying thing.

If, like me, you had a surname people mocked, you might almost welcome a change. I used to be Terry Sheehy and believe me when I say that was one hard moniker to carry around. The boys called me “Terry Sherry” or “Tee-Hee Sheehy.” Or sometimes they’d just yell, “Hey, HE-She!”

I think of that girl who gave up her name at 21. I think of her as she looked in her 5th-grade school picture with her tragically flipped-up bangs and the cold sore on one side of her mouth and how oblivious to her imperfections she remained as she, say, affixed baseball cards to the spokes of her bike to get that nice putt-putt sound.

I think of her eight years later, happily dressing for her senior prom, which she attended all unselfconsciously in a gown her family rented for $15.

Sometimes I even visit the old me on the top shelf of the linen closet where a version of me slumbers in my white heirloom-pack wedding dress box. I pry open the cardboard lid and peer through the plastic window to see a version of the young woman I was once was, lacy sleeves folded over beaded satin bodice, a Sleeping Beauty of an image if ever there was one.

So is Terry Sheehy gone forever then? I hope not. I think of old St. Sebastian, who survived his attack and kept on keepin’ on, as the saying goes. I think of the former Eileen Casey who lives happily on in the nun who took his name for her own.  We are who we always were, only kinder as the years pass, let us hope, and more forgiving of both of ourselves and of others.

 

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